DR CONGO: Salesian missionaries help ensure youth affected by devastating fire are able to attend school
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have been providing support to families who lost everything when a devastating fire broke out in the Nyalukemba neighborhood in the city of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The fire destroyed more than 300 houses that had been built with wooden planks and were very close together. With the agreement of the diocesan Caritas, Salesian missionaries decided to help families who needed to pay school fees for their children to attend primary school.
“I wrote to various friends in Europe, asking for help for the families who lost everything in the fire. I received a beautiful response of generosity,” says Father Piero Gavioli, a Salesian missionary who has been in the country for more than 35 years. “The leaders of the Christian communities in these districts carried out a serious survey in houses and schools, and drew up a list of children to be helped.”
The Don Bosco Center, which opened in 2014 in Bukavu, took in 100 minors. Recently, a social worker with the Don Bosco Center visited the families affected by the fire and were able to see that some families had received materials or money and had begun to rebuild their houses. Since the local authorities had not taken measures to help the inhabitants build according to the standards of urban planning regulations, the same mistakes that were made in the past have been repeated.
“Dad built a house out of sheet metal in which we spend the night, but in very difficult conditions, without a bed, mattress or good blankets. It is rather cold,” says Lea, a 12 year old and the sixth of nine children.
Another youth, Ahana Babwine, who is 10 years old and the eighth of ten children notes, “With help received in aid-in-kind and money, my father rebuilt the house, but it is not yet finished or furnished. We are already living there but it is tough.”
The families who have returned to their homes face many difficulties. Many houses are made of tin and the rooms are not separated by solid walls. Many have no furniture or furnishings. When it rains, residents become victims of flooding because the district is on swampy ground and not appropriate for building on.
Because of these challenging conditions, missionaries at the Don Bosco Center have preferred to invest in a school for the children. Thanks to national and international donors, almost all the children of the district are enrolled in school. The hope is that with education, youth will be able build a better future for themselves and their families.
Despite its vast material wealth, the Democratic Republic of Congo has long been a very poor nation. Half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line on less than $1 a day, especially those in rural communities. Because of ongoing strife and violence within the country, more than 8.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, a figure that’s expected to increase to 13.1 million in 2018. More than 4.1 million Congolese are now displaced with 620,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries. More than 7.5 million people do not have enough food to eat.
Salesian missionaries have been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than 100 years ensuring that the most vulnerable children are not forgotten. Salesian primary and secondary schools and programs lay the foundation for early learning while Salesian trade, vocational and agricultural programs offer many youth the opportunity for a stable and productive future.
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UNICEF – DR Congo